In case it wasn’t obvious enough, I am not a doctor. Everything in this post is based off of my personal experience with anxiety. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or mental health conditions, you should seek the advice of a seasoned professional.
Hi there, my fine friends. I just got back from an amazing six-day vacation in Barbados with my boyfriend. You might remember that I wore this dress while there. I had the most fabulous time, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have to battle some sneaky, encroaching anxious thoughts.
I know what you might be thinking … “What is there to be anxious about while you’re laying on the beach?” And I get it, it can seem irrational to get anxious while laying on the beach, and that’s part of what drives my anxiety. It can be a vicious cycle. Even when I’m not experiencing anxiousness, I start to get anxious that any possible anxiousness could sneak up and ruin everything. And around we go.
So while I’m not an anxious traveler in the literal sense (i.e. flying doesn’t bother me at all), I do get anxious that my racing thoughts will ruin the trip for those I’m with. I worry that I’ll get overwhelmed or get put in a situation that makes me uncomfortable and then become a burden on everyone else. I’m not entirely sure if I’m making any semblance of sense right now, so I’ll move on.
While I have dealing with my anxiety under control in my daily life, it can be hard when traveling because I’m constantly around others and can feel like the walls are closing in when those thoughts start churning. Plus, getting away from my routine can leave room for those sneaky thoughts to slip in.
As you know, this isn’t professional advice, but here are some trips for how I manage anxiety while I travel.
1. Get some space
This one might not always be physically possible, but when I start to feel overwhelmed or anxious, I try to walk away from everyone else for a second and get a minute alone. As much as I most likely love the people I’m traveling with, the “crap, I’m about to ruin everyone else’s day” thoughts start adding to my anxiety. I might walk ahead/fall behind the group for a minute or two, excuse myself to go to the bathroom or climb a tree (no seriously, I’ve done that before) for a bit of alone time. Once alone, I can start to calm myself down and practice my normal tactics.
2. Focus on the present
This is basically mindfulness. When I start to feel my thoughts getting away from me, I focus on something that is happening right this second. I’ll start to explain what is going on to myself. So for example, I’ll say to myself “you’re walking along the beach and noticing the white sand,” or “you’re walking by XYZ monument, look at how interesting that is.” By forcing myself to really focus on something that is physically happening, I loose sight of the anxious thoughts.
3. Share my anxieties
When I’m with a travel companion who I think would be understanding, I’ll simply share that I’m starting the feel anxious and why. And I’ll most likely share that I’m also anxious that my anxiety is ruining their time. Saying it allowed helps relieve me of the burden/isolation of struggling alone in silence. My companion will normally empathize and remind me that everything is ok and then we move on.
4. Remember the good
When I get in my anxiety/anxiety guilt cycle, I practice a bit of gratitude. Rather than sadistically replaying everything I think I’ve done wrong or messed up, I’ll list off the great parts of the trip. By remembering and celebrating the positives, the anxieties start to seem more-and-more insignificant. Plus, it brings a smile to my face, and everyone looks better with a smile.